2 December 2018 | grantss
A famed, and infamous, movie director, JJ Hannaford, dies in a car accident. He was about to release his latest movie and a documentary camera crew had been following him around in the days preceding his death. We see the events leading up to his death, the careers Hannaford destroyed, the enemies he made and his last film, The Other Side of the Wind.
Written and directed by the great Orson Welles, this movie has taken nearly 50 years to be released. Welles started shooting it in 1970 and by his death in 1985 it had not been released. Production issues and politics prevented this. Now, in 2018, Netflix has released it. Being a huge fan of Orson Welles, the thought of seeing his long-dormant final film released was an exciting one.
However, the final product is quite disappointing. It looks and feels unfinished, a mashup of random scenes. While watching I thought that this was due to the film being in an unedited state when Welles died and it was edited to the final version after his death. Turns out the final version had already been edited by Welles, so we can't blame Netflix's production team.
The film-within-a-film element was initially intriguing but is ultimately confusing. What is part of Hannaford's film and what is Welles's film? Are the pretentious, trippy, hippy sequences and the gratuitous nudity and sex scenes Welles trying to appeal to early-70s arty audiences or his take on the pretentiousness of modern movies?
I would like to think that one of the themes of the movie is the pretentiousness of Hollywood, so will give Welles the benefit of the doubt on the content. However, it does become a jarring, disconcerting experience when you have seemingly-gratuitous scenes like those thrown randomly into the movie.
This said, it is not all bad. Welles's take on Hollywood, its movies and the pretentiousness of the times is well directed (if, indeed, that was his aim. It's so difficult to tell). The mystery surrounding John Dale adds intrigue. The story of JJ Hannaford is interesting and John Huston is perfect in the role. He pretty much just had to play himself!
Even here, however, Welles overeggs the pudding. I would have been more engaged in the Hannaford story if there weren't so many scenes that added nothing to plot or character development. So many scenes that just take up space and so much long, pointless dialogue. There's no momentum to the movie at all and the ending is a damp squib.